Courtesy of Yale Athletics
Facing a pair of higher-ranked opponents this weekend, the No. 5 Yale women’s squash team suffered its first back-to-back losses of the season to No. 4 Princeton and No. 2 Penn at the Brady Squash Center.
The Bulldogs (10–3, 3–2 Ivy) squared off at home in a highly-competitive match on Saturday against the Tigers (9–2, 3–2 Ivy), losing a tight 5–4 decision despite claiming the top four spots from their rivals. The next day, the Elis were unable to figure out the Quakers (9–1, 4–1 Ivy) and fell by an 0–9 sweep to the second-best team in the nation. Though the weekend sinks Yale to three losses on the year, the Elis will have a chance to finish the regular season off strong with just two more matches left on the schedule.
“I think having played and lost to higher-ranked teams over the weekend really set the team thinking hard about our weaknesses and the improvements we need to make for the last two games and eventually the Howe Cup [National Championship],” No. 3 Celine Yeap ’19 said. “There is no doubt that my team is still as gritty and as determined as ever.”
The Bulldogs’ home match against Princeton marked the end of an eight-game road trip in which Yale went 7–1, defeating all lower ranked opponents and upsetting then-No. 5 Stanford in Palo Alto, California.
Though Yale was unable to steal another upset victory against Princeton, the Elis took wins at all of the top four spots, the first such occurrence against the Tigers under head coach Dave Talbott.
No. 1 Jenny Scherl ’17 also claimed her first triumph over a Tiger player in her career, taking her match over Olivia Fiechter in three games. No. 2 Lucy Beecroft ’20 and captain and No. 4 Shiyuan Mao ’17 took their respective matches in four games to provide the team a boost, while Yeap provided the match of the night with a five-game thriller in the No. 3 spot. The sophomore rallied back from a 2–1 game deficit against Princeton senior Alexandra Toth, sealing the win with a 13–11 final frame.
“It should not go unmentioned that a sweep of the top four has not happened against Princeton in many years, so the team was able to walk away from Saturday with that little victory,” Scherl said. “In terms of my personal performance on Saturday, I think I left history outside of the court. I did not let past results determine the way I was going to play. I have been working very hard this season to grow my game and I am happy to see it pay off before I hang my racquet up in a couple of weeks.”
Unfortunately for the Elis, the success of the top four spots did not translate to the rest of the team. The Tigers won every matchup in the lower end of the order to claim the victory by a one-match margin. Though No. 7 Emily Sherwood ’19 and No. 8 Selena Maity ’18 pushed their respective matches to four games, Princeton swept its other three matches.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs attempted to bounce back but faced a Penn team riding a six-game win streak. The Quakers displayed their team prowess, blanking the Elis and sweeping four matches.
Yale’s freshmen provided the closest competition in an overall lopsided contest; Beecroft took her match to the fourth game, where she fell 12–10, and No. 9 Jessica Yacobucci ’20 battled to a fifth game against fellow rookie Quaker Clare Kearns before dropping a decisive 11–8 tiebreaker.
Though the weekend’s competition marked the Bulldogs’ first consecutive losses of the season, their national standing is unlikely to change; the Cardinal, one spot behind Yale, split its weekend competition in predictable fashion with a 9–0 loss to No. 3 Trinity and a 7–2 triumph over No. 7 Cornell. Sitting at fifth in the nation, the Elis are ranked between their next two opponents in No. 11 Dartmouth and No. 1 Harvard, the latter of which will provide a significant challenge.
“I think the focus is just to stay tough mentally, [have] confidence in physical and skilled selves and sharpen up the games we already have,” Yacobucci said.
The Bulldogs have not lost to a lower-ranked team this year and will thus enter Brady Squash Center on Friday as heavy favorites against the Big Green. The Crimson, meanwhile, is currently undefeated with lopsided wins over Penn and Princeton, the past two Ivy League opponents to top Yale.
In addition to preparing for its final two Ancient Eight matches, Yale will also look forward to the postseason. The Bulldogs’ final matchups before the Howe Cup will provide a barometer for how the team might fare in tournament play; if the current standings hold, the Elis will rematch the Tigers in the first round of the national championship tournament.
“We were the underdogs for both matches this weekend and I think we fought well,” Madeline Tomlinson ’17 said. “We certainly took away some good things to work on in the next few weeks to prove ourselves in the last two games of our season and nationals.”
Yale defeated Dartmouth 9–0 last season and lost to Harvard by the same margin. Friday’s match against the Big Green begins at 5 p.m.